Guest blog: Choose to challenge. This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme seems particularly apt for Women in Public Affairs.

Guest blog by Women in PA

We are a network of well over 1000 members working in all parts of public affairs, founded by two women – Laura Gilmore and Ella Fallows – who chose to challenge the perception that we work in an industry that is all male (and pale and stale). Fed up with walking into a room and always feeling like the only females in there they acted to create something to change that.

The use of the word choose is powerful. It’s a verb so it describes an action. It’s also a present tense verb so while its true that when you choose you decide on a particular course, it is also never too late to try and change that path. There is always an opportunity to challenge.

In 2019 we ran the first survey of the attitudes and experiences of women in the UK public affairs industry. The results were shocking, if not wholly surprising. For example, 1 in 4 (27%) women have experienced sexual harassment at work and that nearly two-thirds (60%) of women felt their company is not transparent about progression and pay. Repeating the exercise last year the results suggested a lack of progress on these issues.

In response, we are inviting the public affairs industry to sign up to three pledges aimed at raising industry standards and supporting the progression of women with public affairs.

We are calling for the industry to act in three ways:

1.       Publish pay bands. Data shows that lack of transparency on pay disproportionately disadvantages women. In August 2018, the UK Government recommended that employers should clearly communicate the salary on offer to encourage women to negotiate their salary and introduce transparency to promotion, pay and reward processes to reduce pay inequalities.

2.       No more all male panels. We are asking all public affairs professionals to commit to not appearing on or holding events involving all male panels. This includes if the event is digital. We’ve created a directory of fantastic women speakers – there really is no excuse for a lack of diversity in a line up.

3.       Publish sexual harassment policies and point of contact. Just 4% of our 2019 survey respondents rated the industry as good at protecting and helping women deal with sexual harassment. As a starting point, it is vitally important that companies signpost their sexual harassment internal policies and support services.

These pledges have been informed by conversations with senior leaders across the industry, and are backed by the industry body, PRCA.

We hope that as many businesses as possible support us in driving positive behaviour and shining a line on best practice across the industry.

Choose to challenge. Today.

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